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2022 Pushcart Prize Nominee - Corpse Dress by Victoria Buitron

Victoria Buitron

Corpse Dress

I’m driving my dress to cocoon it under swaths of black licorice. Or to drown it beneath branches of fig trees while I suck on sugar cane, waiting until my gums bleed from the sweetness. Someone suggested I donate it. Sell it. My intuition was to stick it in a barrel, flood it with Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipú and leave the wood to shatter at the end of a waterfall. Shoot it with pellets that will plant tulips in the tight threads, and place it in my garden until critters make it into a mud castle the size of my clavicle. Axe throws that will cleave its pear shape until all that’s left are shreds. Maybe smear it in pulp-free blood orange juice and coconut piña coladas. I decide to strap it to the back of my car, catching glimpses as it waves with the wind as a white flag. When I get to the trailhead, I put it on, clasp the front of it into a knot so I don’t trip and leave the back to raze the ground like Hector’s once gorgeous face—a collector of twigs and pebbles—my body as strong as Achille’s, my will as weak as his heel. Even though there’s no sun, just a drab sky, my sweat leaves the dress wet. When I get to the summit, I think about throwing it off the edge. Walking down in underwear and skin, leaving the woods to gulp it, for an osprey to make it part of its nest. But I head with the dress still on, not nearly as soiled as I thought it’d be. I find a camping spot. Start a fire. I take out the marshmallows, hover them over the blaze until the sugar honeys brown. Then stick them to the dress until the garment is sweetmeat, and I rope it up high to a tree. A bear comes, scoffs at my boots, sniffs my elbows, and climbs the tree to steal my past and almost future. I envision her licking the goo from her claws, taking the candied gunk and leaving the threads. Keeping it as a relic in her shelter, and I wish—as I’m left with a flicker of flames—what’s next could come in a blink of hibernation, that my heart could stall for months like hers, eyes closed and body numb, to wake when snapdragons outlive the crude snow.

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